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Sex: Why is sexism so prevalent with zombie game advertisements?


I love me some zombies. I can't get enough; whether it be through television, movies, or video games, I am always ready to see me some undead get massacred by a variety of household objects, tools, and a wide assortment of guns. Games like Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising are perfect for letting me live out my zombie killing fantasies in video game form (they are also good practice for when the real thing happens, BECAUSE MAX BROOKS SAID SO!). When I am blowing up zombie heads with shotgun blasts or tearing limbs off with my trusted paddlesaw, however, one thing is not on my mind: sex. Don't get me wrong, I do think about sex and enjoy making love immensely; but when the undead are upon me and they need to be stopped so I can save friends and loved ones, that is going to be my sole focus (there are no boners to be found for miles). Game developers and publishers seem to think differently; and there have been some instances recently where advertisements have been published trying to mix sex with zombies and gore. The results have been in bad taste and offensive, and I am going to touch on a few of them that made me shake my head and go, "REALLY?!"

That trailer up above is quite possibly the greatest video game trailer ever produced. It mixed fear, hopelessness, family bonding, and loss into one beautiful cohesive package, and when I first saw it, I was pumped for Dead Island. I never got a chance to play it, but through word of mouth and game reviews, I heard the game didn't really deliver a narrative-rich experience, which is what I was hoping for based on the trailer. Regardless, it didn't seem like a terrible game and Techland deserves praise for making such an awesome piece of cinematic brilliance. News of the side-story/sequel Dead Island Riptide got me excited because I knew Techland could learn from its mistakes and make a game as touching as that trailer makes me feel. I wrote a news post for That VideoGame Blog about the Rigor Mortis Edition; seriously, I WANT THAT BOTTLE OPENER AND SUITCASE. Things were looking up! Then this happened:

What the hell? I don't know who is in charge of advertising Dead Island Riptide in the UK, but they clearly have no common sense. That is a gory pair of tits, plain and simple. I could understand, yeah, maybe they wanted to show such excessive violence that all that was left of this unfortunate victim was a torso, but why a bikini? Why such attention to breasts and making the bust the centerpiece of this Collector's Edition? It's simple; because they think sex sells. There could have been any number of alternatives to have this be more tasteful while maintaining how gory their game is: how about a bust of a victim with half of its head chopped off? Or a clothed zombie with a giant hole in its stomach? Anything would have been better than this. Even if they were going for the most extreme use of violence, what advertiser can look at this end product and not say, "Whoa, hold on a second, no, a thousand times no?" A pair of bloodied tits isn't even sexy, so they failed at the whole sexy angle; and the sexism of that combined with the gratuitous violence just melded together to make a giant clusterfuck of stupid. I reported on this as well, and my article was later updated to include a Twitter apology from publisher Deep Silver. There is still no word on whether fan backlash will stop this Collector's Edition from coming out. Maybe it will still come out, and in all honesty, maybe this is what Deep Silver wanted. Controversy breeds attention, and perhaps everyone will hear the name Dead Island Riptide and think, "Oh yeah, that is the game with that European Special Edition with the controversial bikini torso! I wonder if I can do that in the actual game?! I better go get it!" Ugh. Society sucks. Ladies are not to be ogled and torn limb from limb in order to sell a game. Hopefully another publisher or developer can do a better job...

Goddammit, Ubisoft, you too? ZombiU was a new game for a new system with an exciting new controller; you could sell it on the use of the Gamepad's screen to unlock security doors on the television ALONE, or even the way you could zombify yourself with the camera! Why go with this? Here is a lady about to take her top off, and you can tell they want you to turn the page with the WANNA SEE IT? in the corner (but at least you gave her a face, Ubisoft, so you are better than Deep Silver....just kidding, no you aren't). Turn the page and...gross zombie with blood again. Just...no. This is sexist and objectifies women in order to garner interest for a game ABOUT ZOMBIES. I agree with this article on the subject; ZombiU is a game about zombies and killing zombies and has nothing to do with sex, period. The WiiU and its revolutionary controller with a screen is what people are talking about; all you have to do is say and show how your game takes advantage of that technology in an innovative way. AND YOU DID SOMETHING UNIQUE, but you would never know looking at this UK ad (what is with the UK and tasteless advertisements?). I look at this and see a developer afraid of advertising something new and exciting, instead relying on sex and violence in order to sell a product that is only about one of those things. You can sell a unique game on its own merits; you just have to show the people what those merits ARE. Is there any developer out there that knows this?

Naughty Dog, you are my heroes. Everyone read this. The Last of Us sounds amazing, right? It sounds like it has everything one could possibly want in a zombie apocalypse video game: people that have questionable morals that do bad things in order to survive, a young girl who lived a sheltered life and sees the infected world around her and views that as normal because she has nothing else to compare it to, and the impact she will have on the male and female leads by developing a family bond with them. Reading the article, though, it worries me to see that sexism is still a part of some of the industry bigwigs' philosophy towards women. Naughty Dog had to fight to keep Ellie on the front cover of the game's box art, instead of being relegated to the back, AND SHE IS ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS AND PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE (and poor Tess isn't there at all; it's like Naughty Dog had to fight tooth and nail just to get ONE female on the game's cover). It is particularly worrisome to me because I have the feeling that if Tess was more scantily clad or if Ellie was older and wearing short shorts, the game's publishers would have no problem having them on the cover of The Last of Us. I'm upset because a strong female protagonist like Samus is rarely shown on the front cover of her games without armor (and whenever you do see her without it, whether in-game or in promotional art or if you beat the game in a fast enough time, she is always wearing something skin-tight or a bikini or shorts and a tube top). One of my favorite female protagonists, Alyx Vance, isn't on the cover of Half-Life 2 (though she was featured on Episode 1's and Episode 2's covers). I commend Naughty Dog for taking a stance on sexism and fighting to keep Ellie on the game's cover, as well as believing they can sell their game on its premise and strong characters alone. I hope more developers and publishers follow their example.

I wish there was something I could play that will hold me over until The Last of Us comes out. A zombie game that isn't oversexualized, a game with a strong female lead that doesn't use her body to distract enemies or sell her game, a game where Microsoft won't award perverts who look up her skirt with an Achievement. Oh here, this looks to fit the bill nicely:

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About NakedBigBossone of us since 1:58 PM on 06.09.2012

My name is Arthur Damian. I am 34 years old, and I have been gaming since the NES era. I like the new school AND the old school. Chrono Trigger is the bestest game ever, and Junction is the worstest. I love to write, and I am currently working at Baruch College, helping students transfer in their credits from other universities. I also love vidja gamez, and right now I'm playing games on the PS4 and Switch, even though I have a huge backlog of games on the Wii, Wii U, and 360 to go through. BLURG. I also work for That VideoGame Blog as editor-in-chief, writing and editing daily news posts, AND I am an author at Destructoid's sister site, Nintendo Enthusiast.

Xbox LIVE: Bigboss0110
PSN: BareBigBoss
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3DS: 0430-8328-4279